7.17.2013

Some Thoughts On Trayvon Martin

This week I've done a good deal of reading and quite a bit of thinking about the George Zimmerman trial and the various issues that it brings up. Let's work through a few:


The Difference Between Legal and Just
It seems that in this case the prosecution was unable to provide evidence, or a narrative, that George Zimmerman's killing of Trayvon Martin was not an act of self defense. The burden of proof in a criminal case is rightfully very high, and we want prosecutors to be forced to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime has been committed. In this case, the prosecution was unable to convince the jury that Zimmerman's act was not one of self defense, and so they made a decision that we will call the "correct" one.

But that does not make it the just decision.

The facts of this case have been repeated over and over ad nauseum and I won't repeat them again here, but the basics of self-defense law in Florida (and across a wide swath of the rest of the country, thanks to the corporate model legislation composing front known as ALEC) are such that one can conceivably INITIATE an altercation and then act with lethal force if one should begin to lose.

It's worth pointing out that many in the political establishment have attempted to defend the NSA's egregious Orwellian spying regime by pointing out that "no laws have been broken."

Quite simply, there is a vast gulf between what is "legal" and what is "just." It is certainly unfortunate that this is the case, and perhaps in an ideal country it would not be, but America is simply not that country.  It is legal for George Zimmerman to prevent himself from losing a scuffle with a lanky, unarmed 16-year-old boy by shooting that boy through the chest. It is.

But it is also an unconscionable injustice.

W.W.J.C.C.W.
I've been thinking a lot lately about the strange phenomenon of conservative Christians who were rooting for George Zimmerman's acquittal. They saw, as many gun rights advocates saw, nothing wrong with his action. He was protecting his neighborhood from a threat. He was protecting himself from a threat. He was legally allowed to have that gun. From his cold dead hands, and all that.

I find this to be a fairly straightforward and logical line of thinking for a gun rights activist. I disagree, but I get it.

I find it so completely out of line with the teachings of Christ as to be entirely irreconcilable with His teaching. 

Christ teaches us to turn the other cheek when struck--a seemingly clear cut argument against acting in violent self defense, but certainly a clear cut argument against lethal self defense.

Christ teaches us to offer our tunic to one who would take our cloak--a seemingly clear cut argument against the belief that the Christian has the right to violent, or lethal, defense of his own "property." And, for the uninitiated, property is in scare quotes because everything a Christian has, belongs to the Lord (which is why we don't put up that big a fight when he tells us to give him 10%, it's really more that he's letting us keep 90%).

The Bible also teaches us that vengeance belongs to the Lord--a seemingly clear cut argument against seeking vengeance, or revenge, or vigilantism.

I find arguments that Christians are entitled to firearms to be extremely problematic, even for so-called sporting reasons.

As for concealed carry, as for self or home defense, as for standing one's ground, I find Christian arguments for the ownership of firearms to be simply unChristian.

Colorblindness
I've seen a lot of talk in the days since the trial about the ways in which it was either "not about race" or "should not have been about race" or the ways in which various participants in these conversations "don't like to make it about race."

This is absurd.

My favorite recurring phrase regarding the desire for colorblindess was "I just want to see people as people." Unfortunately, this faux-righteous claim for a progressive outlook is actually a tool for the very repression you claim to be above. Colorblind language is part of racism.  Let's unpack why that is.

It's very common to hear someone claim that the criminal justice system is not explicitly racist. Police are not allowed to profile, after all! (Ignoring for a second the fact that's only half-true,) the fact that it's mostly blacks who are arrested for crimes is simply a result of the fact that they commit more crimes, the argument goes. 

The idea that any race commits more or fewer crimes than any other has been proven untrue again and again. Selective policing and the decision to "fight crime" by targeting black neighborhoods over white neighborhoods is the true reason for this discrepancy.

As far as that rhetorical argument, though, is it not easy to see how it breaks down upon inspection? The sincere hope of the colorblind is that by refusing to "see race" or at least to "make it about race," we will bring about equality. But the drug war has been color-blindly raging for decades, and black incarceration rates absolutely dwarf white incarceration rates. So how is colorblindness working out for you so far?

Now, let's take a look at prisons with colorblind eyes. What do we see? People. Criminals. Not 10-to1 disparities between minorities and whites, just people.

So what has colorblindness accomplished? It has simply taught us to turn a blind eye to actual injustice as it actually takes place, and taught us to ignore the plain, visible evidence of that injustice as it sits in the prison system.

Yes, let's pat ourselves on the back for how very progressive colorblindness is.

3 comments:

  1. Just out of curiosity, (because I, myself, do not own a firearm) do you think it is just to shoot an intruder if he attempting to harm or kill your family? I just don't see how protecting your family isn't biblical. I wouldn't stand aside and say, "God will judge you." I've been trying to study both the OT & NT in context. I can't seem to find any scripture that doesn't condone carrying a weapon (even Jesus allows his disciples to carry swords while with him), there is plenty about what our intentions should be when wielding a sword. I just don't see where there is sin in trying to do everything possible to prevent harm from coming to my loved ones in the act of a crime. Thoughts?

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  2. "The idea that any race commits more or fewer crimes than any other has been proven untrue again and again." << Can you point me to these studies?

    My (possibly naive) assumption would be some races are more economically disadvantaged for numerous reasons and therefore--due to lack of education, supervision, etc.-- prone to violence and criminal activities. If you look at crimes like murder or armed robbery, these are not acts that are misreported by biased police officers or police strategy.

    Finally, I would argue that self-defense is sometimes required/permitted within Christian principles. Similar to the Just War Theory, on a micro-scale, if you have exhausted other options, you should protect yourself and loved ones.

    Interesting read...thanks!

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  3. Scott, for starters I don't know if I buy into the idea that "Jesus allows his disciples to carry swords while with him." There's one incident where a disciple USES that knife and Jesus immediately rebukes him and undoes the damage.

    I admit this gets a lot more muddled with regards to defense of family, and I don't know that I have the right answer. I do think that even a "justifiable defense" should not be a lethal defense.

    As for finding a scripture that specifically condones (or doesn't) weapons, I'd be surprised to find one, and I'd struggle to be certain it was still applicable in the drastically different culture we live in today. I just think that owning and "being prepared to use" a lethal weapon is very much out of step with Christ's teachings.

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